Under the Trump administration, pregnant women apprehended and detained by CBP and ICE are being shackled around their stomachs, hands, and legs and denied routine medical care—even during miscarriages, according to BuzzFeed News.
While pregnant women were held in immigrant detention centers under the Obama administration, a 2014 memo made clear that pregnant or nursing women were not to be detained, absent extraordinary circumstances or as required by law. That same year, the shackling of pregnant women held in ICE custody was prohibited.
All of that has changed during the Trump administration. Advocates told BuzzFeed News that “the treatment of pregnant women was substantially different before Trump took office,” noting that they were often released before other detainees. But many began noticing an uptick in the number of pregnant detainees last summer, and ICE’s revised and harsher stance was codified in a policy directive released in December 2017.
The stories told to BuzzFeed are horrifying. Take E, an asylum seeker from El Salvador, who was detained in Arizona while four months pregnant. She recounted the response of ICE officials during her miscarriage: “An official arrived and they said it was not a hospital and they weren’t doctors. They wouldn’t look after me. I realized I was losing my son. It was his life that I was bleeding out. I was staining everything. I spent about eight days just lying down. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t do anything. I started crying and crying and crying.”
She was then forced to wait almost two weeks to see a medical professional. Other women stated that they were given substandard medical care during their pregnancies, when they received any medical care at all.
Rubia Mabel Morales Alfaro, another asylum seeker from El Salvador, was detained for three months. She too had a miscarriage while in detention. “It’s important that you know the trauma that they inflict on you,” she said to BuzzFeed of her time in both CBP and ICE custody. “It’s not a place for anybody much less for pregnant women. It’s something too traumatic. It’s a punishment that I will never forget.”
According to ICE, as of April 7 of this year, 35 pregnant detainees were in the agency’s custody.